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Marketing Welsh in an ambivalent context, by Colin H Williams


The most effective means of influencing behaviour modification was local face to face interaction. Thus far less emphasis is given now to national campaigns with strong messages promoting Welsh and more attention is given to the quality of the experience of using Welsh in real contexts. The marketing techniques are more interactive, requiring a response and additional action. The materials produced are a stimulus to bring people together. In October 2006 a major campaign will focus on drawing people together over a drink (with WLB labelled beverages) to encourage socialising and act as a prompt to develop awareness and further initiatives in the local area. Similar successful consciousness-raising tactics have been adopted in the UK by the Macmillan Cancer Relief campaign. ‘The Biggest Coffee Morning in the World’. A second, novel element is to encourage residents of the 17 targeted towns, to go on an organised walk for at least 17 minutes on the 17th of October.

Thus the current emphasis is on locality, interactivity and quality experiences. For the coming year the Board has decided to eschew many of the conventional passive marketing techniques such as national bill board advertising and general messages, preferring to emphasise action, involvement and engagement.

A second major revision is the attempt to link the fortunes of Welsh with an emphasis on sustainable development and organic, ecological principles (Williams 1991). It is argued that if the revitalisation of the language can be seen in positive terms as a key element of an organically derived philosophy, concerned with pluralism, diversity and integrity, then marketing the language should be accompanied by a commitment to environmentally friendly techniques and the use of recyclable materials. Thus much of the promotional material is printed on recycled paper; the overall effect is to give the impression that the Board is concerned with the quality both of the natural environment and the life chances of residents.

4.3. Semiotics, Iconography and Bilingual Design

A further illustration is in the field of bilingual design. The Welsh Language Board offers advice to designers on the benefits of bilingual design and for the past four years has beenorganising the Bilingual Design Awards, which rewards the best in bilingual design in a variety of fields. These design awards, and the accompanying publicity, undoubtedly raises the profile not only of the finalists but also of the awareness of the design industry itself. In time, the novelty of including Welsh material on advertising and information displays is internalised as more and more companies and agencies adopt a bilingual practice as a matter of course. Such normalisation techniques follow the good experience of Catalonia and Quebec and have been very successful in Wales. The WLB’s Marketing Unit also works with organisations to market the advantages of bilingual skills in the workplace, in further and higher education and in general social life.

4.4. Welsh in the world of technology

Bilingual skills in the market place, high quality design execution and interactivity all depend on the capacity and infrastructure provided by contemporary Information Technology. The WLB has sought to make key products from within IT available and as stress-free as possible so as to induce language switching between the target languages. The aim is to present Welsh as a fully functional language well capable of executing the standard repertoire of tasks one would expect in a modern office or educational environment. The Welsh Language Board has worked in partnership with Microsoft and in 2004 free Welsh Language Interface Packs were launched for Microsoft Office 2003 & Windows XP.(17) Other features include alist of IT terms available at  National Database of Terms; translation tasks available at ‘Total Assistant’; spellcheckers/grammar checkers & dictionaries are available atMicrosoft Welsh language spellchecker (Office XP only); also available is 'Cysgliad' which includes CySill, a grammar and spellchecking program for Welsh and 'CysGeir', which enables you to find words in either Welsh or English from within your word processing application.Language improvement skills may be honed fromCymarfer y Gweithle – basic/higher levelCymarfer Colegau – basic/higher levelwhile many other features are available.(18)

5. Conclusion

There is very little sustained research and evaluation of the role of Welsh in the private sector. Occasionally large enterprises who engage in mass survey analysis of their customers profile would include questions related to Welsh and bilingual services. But by and large such activity as exists is prompted by the strategic considerations of the Welsh Language Board, and much of the normal action is gentle, behind the scenes persuasion by a sympathetic network of loosely aligned language promoters. The marketing approach of the WLB has been evolving to target more specific audiences and to increase the level of interactivity and self-sustaining projects which the Board chooses to initiate but not necessarily maintain over the long term. The aim is to internalise language choice behaviour not to create an additional dependency on WLB directives or finances. Within an overall annual budget of £13m in 2006 some £2.1m is expended on marketing. Both the Private Sector Team and the Marketing Unit are small in comparison with the total staff resources of the WLB which numbers 75. But each project and initiative is designed to fit into an overall WLB strategy whereby synergy, mutually reinforcing campaigns and expenditure are all carefully calculated to calibrate with the activities of the other sections of the WLB and its many partners.

The Board has long realised that its first challenge was to increase the opportunities available to speak and use Welsh in a variety of contexts, and it has succeeded to a remarkable degree in transforming the linguistic landscape. A more profound challenge is to encourage people to take advantage of such opportunities and in this respect marketing, particularly to the private sector, will continue to grow as a key instrument of the Board’s repertoire, the more so as it shares good practice and learns from the experiences of its European partners in the Language Planning Network.(19)

6. References

Edwards, V. and Newcombe, L. (2003) Evaluation of the efficiency and effectiveness of the Twf Project, which encourages parents to transmit the language to their children. Cardiff: The Welsh Language Board.

Gardner, N. Puigdevall i Serralvo, M. and Williams, C.H. (2000) Language Revitalization in Comparative Context: Ireland, the Basque Country and Catalonia, in Williams, C.H. (Ed). ‘Language Revitalization: Policy and Planning in Wales’ Cardiff, University of Wales Press. Pp. 311-61.

Menter a Busnes (1994) A Quiet Revolution: The framework of the academic report. Aberystwyth: Menter a Busnes.

Puigdevall i Serralvo, M. (2006) The Challenge of Language Planning in the Private Sector: Welsh and Catalan Perspectives, unpublished PhD thesis,School of Welsh, Cardiff University.

Welsh Assembly Government (2003) Iaith Pawb: A National Action Plan for a Bilingual Wales.Cardiff: Welsh Assembly Government.

Welsh Language Board (1998a) 1997-98 Annual Report and Accounts. Cardiff: Welsh Language Board.

Welsh Language Board (1998b) Meeting the Translation Requirements of the National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff: Welsh Language Board.

Welsh Language Board (2001) Marketing in Minority Languages: A Report on a European Workshop on Marketing in Minority Languages held in Porthmeirion, 25-27th June,Cardiff: The Welsh Language Board.

Welsh Language Board (2004) Marketing Strategy.Cardiff: The Welsh Language Board.

Welsh Language Board (2006a) Welsh Language Use Survey. Cardiff: The Welsh Language Board.

Welsh Language Board (2006b) Private Sector Strategy.Cardiff: The Welsh Language Board.

Williams, C.H. 1991 Language Planning and Social Change: Ecological Speculations, in D. Marshall (ed.), Focus on Language Planning: Essays in Honour of Joshua A.Fishman, John Benjamins, Amsterdam, pp. 53-74.

Williams, C.H. (2005) “The Role of Para–governmental Institutions in Language Planning” Supreme Court LawReview, Vol. 31, pp. 61-83, and also in F.Braën and Y. Le Bouthillier (eds.), Language, Constitutionalism and Minorities/Langues, constitutionliasme et minorities, pp. 139-59. LexisNexis Butterworths, Markham, Ontario. ISBN 0 433 45148 3

Williams, C.H. andPuigdevall i Serralvo, M. (2002), ‘Private Sector Initiatives: The Catalan and Welsh Experience of Language Planning’ paper delivered at the XLVIII Anglo-Catalan Society Conference, 15-17 November, 2002, Cardiff University.

7. Acknowledgement

I wish to acknowledge the assistance of Rhiannon Glynn, Welsh Language Board, in providing guidance on the operation of the Board’s marketing campaigns and to Meirion Prys Jones, the WLB Chief Executive, for discussing the Board’s strategic overview. Although I am a Member of the Welsh Language Board, these are personal reflections and do no necessarily reflect the official views of the WLB.


Colin H Williams
Language Policy and Planning Research Unit
School of Welsh
Cardiff University



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